If there’s an aesthetic hallmark of this brave new world of left-wing conspiracy theorists, it’s the long, connect-the-dots Twitter thread. The purest and most overelaborated example of this new genre of paranoia debuted on December 11, with the publication of an unreadable, 127-tweet thread known as “Time for Some Game Theory.” Written by Eric Garland, a previously obscure figure who describes himself as a “futurist, keynote speaker, author, intelligence analyst, columnist, and bassist,” the thread veers between the sort of groundless conjecture and outright gibberish that form the basis of President Trump’s own late-night Twitter epistles. (“The Russians f**king rule at covert shit,” reads one Garland tweet. “Always have. Ask a cold warrior. Mucho respect for our adversaries. They do clever work!”) Yet “game theory” thread spread through the internet like measles in an undervaccinated population, garnering widespread praise and driving Garland’s following from 5,000 to 30,000 overnight.
Garland’s thread depicts how the Russians, reduced by the end of the Cold War to “Drunk Uncle status,” systematically used everything from George W. Bush’s recklessness in Iraq to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA to undermine confidence in the U.S. intelligence community. “DID YOU KNOW YOUR TOASTER IS SPYING ON YOU?” Garland tweeted, parodying the mind-set of an American duped by the diabolical Russian conspiracy. “THE GUBMINT! IT IS EVERYWHERE! THEY SPY ON (*controls snickering*) ALLIES! ALL BAD!” According to Garland, Russia’s long con led directly to our current political predicament: “Trump says he don’t need no stinkin’ intel agencies. Russia (BWA HAHAHAHAAAA) blames Ukraine! LOLOLOLOLZZZ.” The only way forward, Garland concludes, is to embrace his “game theory” in all its intricate zaniness. “To be American,” he tweets, “is to accept that unflinchingly and to soldier forth for future generations, and DO BETTER, GODDAMN IT.”
Garland's now infamous "game theory" Twitter thread got me worked up too, remember? Six months later all of it looks pretty silly, and it's only gotten worse.
Other Twitter-threaders were quick to follow in Garland’s paranoid footsteps. Adam Khan, a Silicon Valley marketing consultant, linked to a report about a Treasury Department probe into real estate deals in Miami and New York, which noted that shell companies making all-cash offers sometimes serve as fronts for corrupt officials or drug smugglers looking to launder money. Khan, however, takes this indisputable fact one step further: Because some Trump properties have been bought by anonymous shell companies, he must therefore be in cahoots with Russian oligarchs. Tweet-annotating the report with conspiratorial red arrows, Khan insists that he has discovered the “mechanism used by foreign money launderers to park ill-gotten gains in Trump properties, funnel money to him.” Such a conclusion is, in fact, quite plausible, and raises legitimate questions that should be investigated. But a shell company does not automatically mean money laundering. This form of internet sleuthing is little more than garden-variety inductive fallacy: While the underlying premise is true, the conclusion could well be false. But like Trump’s leaps of illogic, such left-wing conspiracy thinking is a hit on Twitter: Khan has 154,000 followers.
Then there’s Seth Abramson, a poet at the University of New Hampshire, who has 119,000 followers. In one long-winded and breathless Twitter thread, published in March, Abramson rattled off 40 tweets (plus an additional 10 tweets of “notes”) that began: “The plot to sell America’s foreign policy for foreign oil _and_ steal an election in the bargain began”—wait for it—“at the Mayflower Hotel.” The venue for Trump’s first major foreign policy address, Abramson notes, was switched at the last minute from the National Press Club to the Mayflower. In Abramson’s analysis, it was changed because the hotel has “restricted, VIP-only areas” that enabled Trump to meet in secret with the ambassadors for Russia, Italy, and Singapore, who jointly negotiated the sale of 19 percent of Russia’s state oil company. Here, behind closed doors, is where Trump agreed to do Russia’s bidding in return for a cut of the oil: “The Mayflower Speech,” Abramson concludes, “should get the most attention in Congress.” The entire thesis is founded on the simple fact of a hotel booking; in the conspiracy mind-set, even the most mundane logistical details reveal a deeper, preordained plot.
For further evidence, conspiracy theorists routinely rely on unnamed and untraceable sources. Everyone, it seems, has an unnamed contact in the intelligence community these days. Andrea Chalupa, the author of a book on the “untold story” of Animal Farm, recently tweeted that an “Active IC agent told me Russia developed Trump for over decade, could have arrested him for sex crimes, instead collected kompromat”—the Russian term for compromising material. Claude Taylor, a former aide to Bill Clinton turned travel photographer, tweeted in March that Trump was on the verge of resigning, and seconded Mensch’s claim that a “Grand Jury under auspices of FISA court” had issued a “sealed indictment … to serve as the basis of Impeachment.” Never mind that FISA courts don’t issue indictments, or that impeachment begins in the House of Representatives, not with a grand jury. This is a former White House aide—he must have some form of inside intelligence.
It should come as no surprise that Twitter is the medium of choice for left-wing conspiracy theories. As Trump himself has demonstrated, Twitter cares about only one thing: whether content is sensational enough to go viral. Twitter enables conspiracy thinkers to unfold their crazy scenarios in incremental, isolated blasts, each “fact” as disconnected from the others as it is from reality. What matters isn’t the background or experience of the theorists, or whether any of their claims are substantiated. Much like adorable cat GIFs or Ellen DeGeneres selfies, conspiracy tweets play not to our desire to understand the world, but to our deep-seated need to share the things we find most comforting.
Make no mistake, Eric Garland, Adam Khan, Seth Abramson, the crew at Palmer Report, the "Patribiotics" combo of Chuck Clymer and Louise Mensch, and as much as I hate to admit it, Sarah Kendzior, are badly hurting the liberal cause with unsubstantiated garbage thrown against the wall in hoping that one or two things turn out to be right.
Why anyone would be listening to right-wing British nutjob Mensch now that she's found a new group of suckers to con is beyond me, but I'm going to stick with the real stuff.
John Schindler is getting close to this end of the pool too. For now he's been mostly correct about his claims but his call last week that NSA head Adm. Mike Rogers was going to have "a tale to tell" in this week's Senate Intelligence Committee testimony was a complete bust. Rogers probably did order the preservation of anything related to Trump/Russia for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but that's clearly the limit to as far as Rogers is willing to go right now.
We'll see where we are, but getting rid of Trump isn't going to happen through impeachment and removal. Resignation maybe, but never by Congress.
Keep those grains of salt handy to take with all this.